A Colder War

A short story by Charlie Stross. What if the Cold War had been fought, not with the threat of nukes, but with the threat of Great Cthulhu?

"There is probably no way of explaining Project Koschei, or XK-PLUTO, or MK-NIGHTMARE, or the gates, without watering them down into just another weapons system -- which they are not. Weapons may have deadly or hideous effects, but they acquire moral character from the actions of those who use them. Whereas these projects are indelibly stained by a patina of ancient evil ..."

It fits very cleverly into the HP Lovecraft universe; in particular, it follows the obvious extrapolation of At The Mountains Of Madness: what if the narrator's warning went unheeded, and further expeditions went to the Antarctic? What if, rather than all being destroyed, some finally brought back alien technology, including the shoggoths? What if, decoding the dioramas on the walls, men dived to the bottom of the Baltic, to R Lyeh itself, and brought back something even worse, the ultimate weapon, the final horror. Now that's Mutual Assured Destruction.

As well as meshing well with the Cthulhu Mythos, it has a beautiful meshing with consensus reality; Stross ties the creatures of the mythos to the fossils of the Burgess Shale (as explained by Stephen Jay Gould in a cameo appearance), and associates the lake beneath the Old Ones' city with Lake Vostok. The horrific, supernatural weapon systems go by classic US black-project names like XK-PLUTO, MK-NIGHTMARE and FEVER DREAM, and are under the command of one Colonel Oliver North. Even Saddam Hussein puts in an appearance!

Fucking brilliant. -- TA

Do the gates come from Lovecraft, or are they Stross' own creation? Are NIGHTMARE and FEVER DREAM ever explained?

Category Short Story

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